servant leaders

The Beauty of Foot Washing

images-1Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:14-15

What is footwashing and why should you experience it? This practice is an increasingly lost art on much of Christendom. It is the simple act of kneeling before someone and doing as the name implies and Jesus modeled, washing their feet. It is most often ceremonial (minus actual soap and scrubbing) yet the simple process of holding and “washing” in a bowl and drying with a towel is observed.

Consider 4 reasons you, your family, lead team and/or a small group should experience this ancient act…

No1 – It’s humbling. Obviously. It’s the work of a servant. But what you may discover is not simply how humbling it is to wash someone’s feet, but also to have someone wash yours. From someone you love and respect to someone you may have never met, there is a deeper work of the heart involved in this sacred act.

No2 – It lends perspective. Beyond humility, the vulnerability of the act itself is revealing. Is there hidden pride in my heart? Where do I see myself in relation to the Lord and others? Jesus’ question in John’s memory probes deeper still, “Do you understand what I have done for you?”

No3 – It’s an act of worship. The penitent posture it requires positions not only our bodies, but our souls aright before the Lord. The fragrance of such an act wafts its way before the throne of God with a sweetness that pleases the Master. He is the Savior who stooped low that we might stand before the Father. We have perhaps never been as close to God than when bowed to wash the feet of another.

No4 – Jesus said so. Okay, it’s debatable for some theologians whether he meant for us to practice this as literally as an ordinance or metaphorically as we serve others daily. Then again, maybe it’s both? It has the same credentials as the other more accepted ordinances (Baptism and Communion). Jesus modeled it, asked it of us, and the early church practiced it. Shouldn’t this be enough to encourage us to follow His lead?

Maybe this practice is not only new, but scary for you? Take the opportunity to just observe at first. Then, take the risk. Grab a towel, bend your knee and join Jesus in this timeless and sacred moment.

What about the experience of footwashing has been profound to you? How has it impacted you, your family or lead team? Share your thoughts in the Reply section below…

9 Words for Every Leader

images-5Words are power. We underestimate the impact of our words as people and doubly-so as leaders of people. Here are 9 Words that all leaders must speak (and know when to speak them)…

1) A Word of Fact. Leaders aren’t blind to the realities of life, the health of their family or team, or the state of their organizations.

2) A Word of Faith. You’ve gotta believe. And, you’ve got to help others believe as you see and say what others can’t or simply won’t.

3) A Word of Encouragement. Encouragement fuels momentum and serves as a magnet to your organization. More importantly, it builds people up in a world that tears them down.

4) A Word of Silence. Great leaders know when not to speak and let the moment speak for itself.

5) A Word of Correction. This one can be tough. However, not as tough as dealing with the fallout from not calling out lacks of character, lapses in judgment, or bad attitudes.

6) A Word of Hope. “Hope is a powerful thing. Maybe the best of things.” (Shawshank Redemption) Move people beyond their despair by speaking words that say, “This isn’t over. You aren’t alone. Better days are coming. You can do this. I believe in you!”

7) A Word of Warning. Like any good parent we must be willing to lead others away from danger… dangerous thinking, attitudes, distractions, directions, relationships or habits.

8) A Word of Confession. Leaders aren’t perfect. When we have fallen short it is vital that we don’t use our position to give ourselves a pass. We should admit it, process it with those involved, and learn from it together going forward.

9) A Word of Love. Leaders are lovers… lovers of God and of people. They love these more than any other measures of success.

What word would you add? Leave your word in the Reply section below…

The 3 Best (& worst) Times to Talk to Your Pastor

images-19You have a great idea to share, suggestion to make, an urgent need to be met, hurt to be healed, or a special request to be prayed for. You are hoping to communicate this one-on-one with your pastor, and, the sooner the better. The question is, when is the best time to share it?

Let’s start with what may be the 3 WORST TIMES TO TALK TO YOUR PASTOR.

#1 – Before they preach. Your pastor’s mind is probably somewhere else, and for good reason. They will either not remember what you said or, worse, will be distracted from sharing God’s Word with all who will be listening and in need of the message.

#2 – After they preach. I would suggest that if your pastor focuses on anyone post-service, it should be guests. Whether informally in the isles or in an official “meet and greet” setting, the pastor should be focussed on those who are already forming their first impression. And, having just spoken for 20-30 minutes (some in multiple services) they are usually a little drained.

#3 – Late at night. Getting that late night phone call after a very long day is not on anyone’s top ten list of favorite things, especially when it is something that likely can wait. Offering pastoral care in emergencies is a sacred duty that most clergy embrace willingly. However, before calling about lesser matters, remember that family and personal time are at a premium for most people, your pastor included.

While most pastors try to see all interactions as “divine appointments,” it is easy for both unscheduled and scheduled appointments to get lost in the shuffle of ministry life.  Here are the 3 best times to talk with your pastor…

#1 – When you have made an appointment. It isn’t that pastors are above an impromptu conversation in the hallway or a “pop by” at the office. The reality is that your pastor will be in a much more prepared position to meet with you if they have advanced notice. Believe it or not, they don’t automatically know what to say, let alone pray for every person and situation. And, you are probably not the only person seeking to “bend the ear” of your pastor. Make an appointment with their Executive Assistant or Secretary.

#2 – When someone more qualified isn’t available. While your pastor possesses a certain level of spiritual discernment and knowledge of the Word, they aren’t necessarily an expert in finance, relationships, vocational coaching, etc. Ask yourself, are there other staff members, elders or other professionals who may have devoted their lives to serving in my area of need? While your pastor will be happy to pray with you on just about any matter, they are likely not the most qualified person to address your need. Are you part of a small group? Perhaps your need can be met through the care provided through this close circle of friends?

#3 – When you have an actual emergency. Whether spiritual, relational, emotional, or physical (I suggest calling a doctor first), pastors are called to be there. Again, most pastors answer the call to care in the middle of the night, a “day off,” come back early from a vacation and more to be there for their church family. Of course, this is all-too-often at the expense of their own spouse and kids and, unless healthy boundaries are established, this leads to burnout, resentment and worse. But that is another post for another day.

Consider that only a small percentage of the “emergencies” may be actual crisis. The rest can wait for daylight, an appointment, or better yet, can be fielded by someone else who may, in fact, be more qualified to address it. Beyond that, call your pastor and/or make the contact through the appropriate channels and catch them at a better time for all as they seek to serve the Lord and lead your congregation.

What are your thoughts? How do you suggest people communicate needs to a pastor? Join in the discussion below!




5 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastor


Both my wife and I are “PK’s” and we have spent a lifetime living the highs and lows of life in ministry. This is no small reason why we love to encourage pastors and the ministries they serve. While we still have so much to learn about life and leadership and are grateful for our heritage, here’s what we do know… being a pastor is tough (see stats below). And, being a pastor’s spouse or an infamous “PK” may be even tougher.

From my heart to yours, here are 5 ways you and your congregation can appreciate your pastor and family all year ’round…

1) Give them grace. Remember, they are just people. Your pastor and their family struggle with all the same stuff you and your kids do. They aren’t perfect. They aren’t superheroes. They are human. They need grace. Be understanding, patient and kind when your pastor and their family struggle deeply along the way.

2) Give them encouragement. Because they are people, too, they need a lot of this. They are constantly reminded of their shortcomings, failures and faults even while they seek to help others with theirs. Determine to counter this with a constant stream of compliments and “Atta’ boys” and pats on the back. They need it. Besides, its so very hard to be an encourager when you are discouraged.

3) Give them… gifts! Your pastor isn’t in it for the money. Still, they would love to be able to go out and have a good time with their spouses and kids a little more often. Donate gift cards to restaurants, shopping centers, coffee shops, theaters, sport venues, gas stations, and more.

4) Give them your prayers. Pray a lot for your pastor! Your pastor has a great big “bulls eye” on his chest. The devil would love to discourage or even destroy your pastor and family knowing that so many more are likely to be disillusioned should they stumble. Pray for protection, endurance, discernment and, above all… joy in their journey!

5) Give them more time. Whether you decide as a leadership team to extend your pastor some extra days off or an extra week of vacation… the biggest pressure on your pastor and their family is time. No, they don’t have to “punch a clock.” However, they don’t have weekends off and often spend evenings studying, answering emails, at meetings, counseling, praying, planning and more because their days are so full of, well, church stuff.

Allow me to offer one more rather bold suggestion on behalf or your pastoral family. Please, don’t automatically give them an invite for yet another evening with you and a few other couples. They have likely been visiting with people in and out of the church all week in addition to meetings, etc. While you are no doubt wonderful and fun-loving people, they desperately need to just hang out with their own families without having to be “on.”

This Pastor’s Appreciation Month, pick one or, better yet, all 5 suggestions and encourage your pastor and family all year-long!

ps – Don’t forget your Associate Pastors and families… same pressures, different roles!

What follows are some stats concerning pastors and ministry life. Some may be anecdotal, but they certainly feel like fact…

  •  90% of the pastors report working between 55 to75 hours per week.
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.
  • 95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
  • 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75% report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged as role of pastors.
  • 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • 33% confess having involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
  • 94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.
  • 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
  • 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
  • 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.
  • 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.
  • The profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman”.
  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
  • Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month , many without cause.
  • Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
  • Many denominations report an “empty pulpit crisis”. They cannot find ministers willing to fill positions.

#1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

Statistics provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc.

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17, NIV)

Check out one leader’s perspective on why pastors leave the ministry…



5 Inescapable Truths

5 Inescapable Truths of Organizational Culture
by Pastor Andy Stanley

Adapted from one of the most telling and practical podcasts I have ever listened to, these truths promise to challenge your church or organization towards a greater awareness of their true identity. I return to these time and again…

Culture: That set of unwritten rules that determine how a people in an organization act, react, solve problems, treat people, live out expectations, approaches… the stuff that makes up the personality of the organization.

Culture incorporates Values: For example, excellence is a value. How we express (apply, live it out, etc) excellence creates our culture. Culture says, “This is how we do it here.”

Culture impacts how people carry out and focus on the vision/mission. It is difficult but EXTRAORDINARILY important to embrace cultural change.

Reality: Every church has a culture. What is ours? Describe it in 3 words… _________________ _________________ _________________

Truth 1: Leaders shape the culture whether they intend to or not.

Leaders either adapt to the present culture (become invisible) or create culture (change agent).

What is the driving force of our culture? God may be blessing… but what is He blessing and to what end? When you are sure about this… protect it and promote it at all cost!

Truth 2: Time in erodes awareness of.

If you aren’t intentional, the longer we are in leadership the less aware we are of our culture (how we appear to others).

These first two truths compound one another. You have to build into your culture ways to stay aware… Guest Ready! For example… new staff/guest evaluations and “Main Event” reviews.

Truth 3: Healthy cultures attract and keep healthy people.

Unhealthy people (i.e. consumers vs. producers; self-absorbed; negative; critical; tradition-bound; power-brokers; “needy” drama kings & queens, etc) are attracted to unhealthy cultures. Healthy people have a low tolerance of unhealthy cultures… and they just leave. If we really want to be able to minister to unhealthy, hurting people, we must constantly strive be healthy people in healthy environments.

Unhealthy Indicators:

1 – Unhealthy (Consumers) people are drama oriented & healthy (Producers) are “get-it-done” oriented.

2 – Unhealthy people are self-focused and healthy people are others-focused.

3 – Unhealthy organizations use sideways energy and are busy, busy, busy… with little productivity (and have worn out, uninspired leaders!). Healthy organizations are others-focused (making disciples) and use forward energy, resulting in high productivity (and energized, inspired leaders!).

Truth 4: The organizational culture impacts the long-term productivity of the organization.

Territorialism is replaced by collaboration. Red tape is replaced by simple systems that empower people. Feelings don’t get hurt and leaders don’t have to walk on “eggshells,” killing momentum and productivity again and again… and there is healthy growth!

Truth 5: Unhealthy cultures are slow to adapt to change!

The churches that grow the fastest and are the healthiest are those that are NOT focused on their church members. (NOTE: This is assuming you have created healthy discipleship environments and processes for your members). An unhealthy culture is generally focused inward, on itself and their back is to the marketplace. An unhealthy church resists change.

What are your thoughts on these axioms? What would you add to these organizational realities? Share some of your own applications of these truths…

The 5 R’s of a Healthy Team

imgres-6How do great organizations, championship teams, next-level leaders and community changing churches maintain health and higher levels of productivity? The answer may surprise you. Need a hint?

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

If you and your team are experiencing a prolonged plateau or lack of momentum, morale and creativity, it could be that you simply need a break. Rather than “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” or “beating a dead horse,” consider these five strategies as a “cure for what ails you…” Rest. Reset. Resource. Recruit. Relaunch. 

Rest – This may be a day, a week, a month or a longer sabbatical period. However, you will skip this step only at the sacrifice of the others and, ironically, you will have only exponentially multiplied the need for it. For example, our core leaders and volunteers have the month of July “off.” While we are meeting for worship and and other very basic functions of church life, we are not doing outreach, our 252 Kids Sunday morning ministry, and a variety of other monthly initiatives. What will they be doing? Hopefully a whole lot of nothing.

Slow down, way down. Let your soul catch up with your body. Get away. Get some rest. Laugh a lot and do whatever fuels and fills you and your loved-ones with joy.

Note: Whenever possible, do as much of the following BEFORE you take the time to rest or strategically plan for it post-rest so that you can truly restore your soul, mind and body. And, yes, it is “easier said than done” and may take some time to incorporate into your organizational DNA.

Reset – There are plenty of other words for this. You can retool, rework, or otherwise revise your strategy to fulfill your greater vision in more productive ways. Ask yourselves what has been working and what hasn’t. Who the target group is and who has actually been coming or otherwise buying into what you’ve been selling. Make the tough calls and the tougher changes. CAUTION: Resist the temptation to add anything without subtracting a couple of others. If not, you will be right back to burn-out in n0 time. Simplify. Streamline and you will make growth not only possible, but probable.

Resource – What training is needed? What materials were running low? What systems were losing effectiveness? Simply put, what do your core leaders need to be and do better? Discover these and invest in the best you can afford. You can’t afford not to.

Recruit – It could be that some of your core leadership need more than a little time off? Some may need to simply step down. Give them permission or simply inform the stubborn ones that their time in this position has come to an end. Celebrate them and then seek out those who feel called, gifted and passionate. See that they are informed, trained, coached and otherwise ready to go.

Relaunch – Set the date well in advance. Then plan, prepare and promote, promote, promote for the relaunch. Make it a little bigger deal and slightly more over-the-top than you think you should and you may have it just right! Oh.. and let your team know from the git-go when their next “5 R” break is going to be.

You may want to use other words like respite, retreat, renew, renovate, or you may not be as “OCD” and use some that don’t begin with the same letter.  However, just one more “R…”

Remember. Even God took a day off.

NOTE: Many organizations, churches and teams practice this and I have simply gathered from many of these both this concept and strategy… no new news here.

4 Friends

imgres-1Check out the following article by  Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard concerning the 4 Friends Every Pastor Needs… 

Pastors may be the most well-known, loneliest men on the face of the earth. Friendship is a vital part of New Testament ministry and leadership. Without quality, biblical friendships, we are modeling a flawed Christian lifestyle for our church members. Yet, for many, the difficulties of pastoral friendships outweigh the benefits.

Most pastors find themselves in an unhealthy relationship where their wife is their only friend and counselor. If a pastor continues to project his problems onto his wife, she will grow disillusioned and desperate to leave the ministry. I believe a pastor’s wife should be his best friend, but she should not be his only friend.

In my 30 years of ministry, I have learned that every pastor needs at least four types of friends.

The developer

Your best friend will always be the person who brings out the very best in you. According to Billy Graham, he wouldn’t have made it as an evangelist if he had to minister alone. Over 53 years ago, Billy Graham met his staff and best friends: Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea and Grady Wilson. These three men protected him, strengthened him, counseled with their wisdom and corrected him when he needed it. He is convinced that without these friends he would have burned out within a few years after his first groundbreaking crusade in 1949 (Just as I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham, pp. 125-129).

Developer friends will bring the gift of encouragement to a pastor’s life and bring out the very best in him.

The designer

We tend to think of a mentor as a personal, hands-on coach. The Latin and Greek define them more as “advisors” or “wise men.” Jesus was a master mentor. He ministered to thousands, trained hundreds, equipped twelve and had an intimate friendship with three men.

The designer mentors us in our marriage, ministry, child-rearing, civic involvement, business acumen or any area where we need a model. Designer mentors may live near or far, be acquaintances or strangers, or may even be dead. They “design” our lives through Scripture, books, tapes, articles or seminars.

The disturber

We need friends who will shake up our status quo. Disturbers ask us difficult questions, forcing us to take a closer look at motivations and ambitions. Disturbers know when we have retreated into our comfort zones, and they call us out to greater effectiveness. God uses disturbers in our lives to become the object of greater force that breaks inertia and propels us to greater achievement.

A biblical picture of a disturber is in Deuteronomy 32:11. In this passage, the mother eagle tears up the soft nest to reveal sharp thorns that bring discomfort to the eaglets. Because of discomfort, the eaglets leave the nest and learn to fly. The mother develops her young by repeatedly pushing them out of the nest and catching them until they become skilled flyers. Eagles were never meant to stay in the nest, and neither were we. The disturber pushes us to learn to fly.

The discerner

In a lifetime of relationships, perhaps only a handful of people are willing to play this vital role because it requires mutual vulnerability. More popularly known as accountability partners, discerners bring the gift of spiritual insight into our lives. They know how to speak the truth in love. They know how to exhort and rebuke, seeking to keep their friend on the right track. They are also vulnerable—the true friends who will walk into the room of your life while everyone else is walking out.

Proverbs 27:6 reads, “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” Always be slow in choosing your discerners and even slower in leaving them.

If you are a typical pastor without close friendships, I urge you to seek them out. They may keep you in ministry for the long haul, and your wife will thank you.

Break the Stalemate

images-7I recently met for our church’s Breakthrough Prayer Meeting. I was honored to share this time with Tom and Jan Cockerham. These two servant leaders have led faithfully in both pastoral and missions ministry for over 50 years. You can be sure of this… they are still leading.

Our focus was on 2 Corinthians 2:4, “For the weapons or our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds…”

We shared that this spiritual arsenal included God’s Word, prayer, praise, the Name of Jesus, etc. And all the above made more powerful when wielded in unity. However, what was so profound, even prophetic for me was Pastor Tom’s answer to the closing question, “What are the strongholds in the church today?”

His answer, “Traditions and cultural framework.” My response. I simply said, “Wow.” We spent a few minutes talking about just how many things we do in church that are mere traditions. To me this was made all the more telling because it came not from some young, trendy twenty or thirty-something upstart, but from a seasoned veteran of life and ministry. They are both well-versed in the traditions of the church but possess a passion for something more. Jan affirmed and brought application to our theology (as only a spirit-filled woman can) saying simply, “We need more of the Holy Spirit.” Again, “Wow… yes!” was about all I could come up with in the moment.

We began to pray together and in Pastor Tom’s prayer he shot a volley right to the heart of our cultural traditions in worship and ministry…. “Oh, Holy Spirit, break the stalemate in our churches that have come because of tradition. Teach us that there are new ways of doing things that may just be better than the old…” He went on to pray passionately for a church that was struggling and yes, even dying under the weight of over 100 years of tradition.

True, there is much that can be said about the pitfalls of trend. However, as we agreed in those moments, most of our churches are in no danger of being too “cutting edge” in reaching our culture, let alone getting ahead of the Holy Spirit.

Are you part of the stalemate that exists between tradition and the move of the Holy Spirit in today’s church? How can we purpose to break this stronghold and walk in step with the Spirit as we seek to reach our culture in the 21st century?

It’s your move.



Empower Your Team

Servant Leaders,

How do you empower your team? Here are 5 ways you can energize those who serve with you…

1 – Pray for them and over them. Your prayers will help pour back into them what their jobs are taking out. Pray for their spouses, their kids, for strength, wisdom, creativity and more. While you are at it, let them hear you praise God for bringing them into your life and for all they bring to the team!

2 – Celebrate them! People like to know they count. Everyone needs to hear that who they are and what they do matters and is making a difference. Make it visible, make it vocal and make it part of a greater climate of gratitude that will spread and motivate others to do the same.

3 – Time out. While giving everyone a raise or a new iPad  may not be feasible, giving your team members some strategic afternoons, or mornings, or more off, is. Give them some notice so they can plan and take advantage of the time. If they need to work from home, fine. Besides, productivity is more important than punching the clock. Especially after a big initiative or event, give them time to recover and rejuvenate.

4 – Equip for success. Often we don’t set our team up with any, let alone the right tools. This is equivalent to sending a hitter to the plate without a bat. Before assigning a project ask whether or not they have the tools necessary to really knock it out of the park. If not, then actively seek those resources and then give them the “swing away” sign.

5 – Listen… and learn from them. Nothing says, “You’re important!” like silence. If you must speak, ask an open-ended question that will encourage them to dig deeper and share more. Listen for what your team is saying, and not saying about where they are at as people, spouses, parents, as well as leaders. And, resist the tendency to put what they have said in your own context. Let them speak and create a culture of value through listening.

Bonus Tip: Surprise everyone. Toss the agenda and just have fun every once in a while!

These strategies should be seen as part of a culture you create and not a quick list you check off. Be intentional about empowering your team and you will become better people, better leaders and partner to accomplish greater things!